Olympic Lifts 101: How to Do the Barbell Snatch

Olympic Lifts 101: How to Do the Barbell Snatch
Photo: Ryan Kelly / Daily Burn

Weightlifting may not get as much attention as other Olympic sports, but it was actually one of the few sports that were part of the original Athens Games. And while the objective remains simple (lift the heaviest weight), the movements are quite complex. Take the ultimate weightlifting move, the snatch, for instance. Considered as one of the most difficult lifts next to the clean and jerk, the snatch involves raising a barbell from the floor to overhead in one fluid movement. Now imagine doing that with 105 kg (231 lbs). NBD, right?

The snatch is also your ticket to a seriously impressive workout. According to Lisa Wheeler, head of fitness programming at Daily Burn, “You develop strength and power simultaneously with the snatch. It’s a fundamental, total-body integrated move that hits almost every major muscle group.”

Instead of relying on the strength of your arms alone, you use your core, glutes, calves, and even your toe muscles to drive yourself up. But the snatch doesn’t just test the limits of your muscle strength, it can also help improve your mobility and crank up your heart rate, Wheeler says. “Not only do you learn to produce power, you learn to absorb force.”

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Practice Makes Perfect

Before you pick up that barbell, Wheeler recommends working on your shoulder and hip mobility in addition to core stability. That can include bear squats (where you get on all fours with your toes tucked in, knees bent and lifted, and extend your body forward and back), goblet squats or child’s pose to plank (with toes tucked under). For shoulder mobility, you can work on developing full range of motion using with PVC piping or exercise bands.

Once you nail down those essential movements, Wheeler suggests mastering the overhead squat. “After building strength and mobility of that move with adequate weight — aiming to fatigue the muscles in 10-12 reps — you can begin your snatch training with just a barbell,” Wheeler says.

Practice the motion until you feel comfortable and then begin to add weights in five-pound increments on each side. Try five reps and decide if you can increase or work at that level. Now that you’re ready to snatch away, here are some pro tips to keep in mind.

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4 Steps to Master the Snatch

1. Drop it like a squat. The momentum you need to bring the barbell overhead won’t come from your arms alone. Engaging your core muscles and driving strength through your hips are important for preventing injury. Stand with your feet a little more than hip-width apart with your toes turned out and knees pointed directly over your big toes. Your weight should be distributed in your mid-foot — not on your toes. Avoid rounding your back and have your chest lean forward about 45 degrees.

2. Grip it good. “There is much debate on hand placement with shoulder mobility, flexibility and grip strength coming into play,” Wheeler says. But the current popular method is to hold the bar in front of your thighs and slowly move your hands out until the bar rests where you break at the hips in a hinge. “It’s important to keep the barbell close to your body throughout the entire progression of the snatch,” Wheeler advises. When you look down, the barbell should be covering your shoelaces. 

This is what weightlifters call the “power position.”

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3. Get ready for the catch. This move is similar to the deadlift in that you keep your arms straight throughout the entire movement. Use force from your core, back and legs to bring the barbell close to your hips before pulling it up overhead, as you sit into a wide squat. Avoid swinging the arms, which can cause injury. This is what weightlifters call the “power position.” 

4. Sink low into a wide squat. When you jump into the low position, the legs are hip width or slightly wider with your toes pointing out. “You should think of pressing into your feet to corkscrew the knees,” Wheeler says. Extend the knees with your thighs parallel and then do the hip drive to stand tall with the barbell overhead.

Want more strength training workouts and tips? Head to DailyBurn.com/365 to get new live workouts, daily.

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